Members rally to oppose proposed Washington state aircraft tax

Lawmakers eye aircraft in hunt for revenue

February 7, 2011

AOPA is calling on members in the state of Washington to help defeat a proposed excise tax on aircraft that is similar to a taxation plan dropped by lawmakers last year after a vigorous informational effort by the aviation community.

House Bill 1847, which would impose an annual half-percent levy “for the privilege of using any aircraft in the state,” was introduced Feb. 4. It seeks to raise revenue from aircraft taxes “to provide funding to maintain enrollment in the basic state health care plan.”

The bill would impose the levy of 0.5 percent of an aircraft’s taxable value as part of a process of ending “tax preferences” that the 23 sponsors of the legislation describe as “obsolete and inefficient.”

“This bill description is certainly a mischaracterization as it applies to the new aircraft tax provision, because there are no real existing tax exemptions or ‘preferences’ for GA aircraft based in the state,” said AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Mark Kimberling, “and the current cumulative tax liability to own, maintain, and operate an aircraft in Washington is already among the highest in the nation.”

A measure seeking to impose a similar excise tax was defeated in April 2010 after an extensive education and outreach campaign by AOPA and the state’s aviation community, during which AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro went to Olympia, speaking with lawmakers about the proposal. AOPA kept in constant contact with legislators and staff by phone and e-mail throughout the process until a House-Senate conference committee report was finally completed—without the excise tax.

Pecoraro said AOPA members’ help in explaining the adverse impact of the tax and the economic contributions of GA to the state was key to the successful battle to resist the tax. Had it passed, the excise tax would have created the highest registration rates in the nation for many aircraft. AOPA worked with the Washington Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), and other groups on the issue, as AOPA reported on April 12, 2010.

In 2011, AOPA is again calling on members in a targeted and measured manner through e-mailed Action Alerts to explain the potential harm the aircraft tax increase in the bill could do to the state’s long-awaited economic recovery.

“However well-intentioned the effort is to find increased revenue to support healthcare and fix the budget shortfall, this excessive tax would only stymie the economic recovery by inflicting damage on an already fragile industry,” said Pecoraro.

He added that the proposal “would actually result in a net long-term loss in revenue for the state as businesses and jobs inevitably migrate to other states.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.